The Conservation Challenge and context for CBNRM

Rural dwelling on outskirts of Tora Conservancy, Kuene region, Namibia. rel=
Rural dwelling on outskirts of Tora Conservancy, Kuene region, Namibia.
© WWF-Canon / Jo BENN
Before the 1980s, natural resources management regimes in southern Africa excluded communities from participating in the protection and management of biodiversity.
As a result, unsustainable land use practices contributed to biodiversity loss and a decline in the quality of environmental goods and services. In addition, the livelihoods of the communities that depend directly on natural resources for subsistence agriculture, fishing, forestry products and wildlife were also threatened.

In order to conserve biodiversity and protect critical ecosystems, governments across southern Africa have committed themselves to CBNRM through the enactment of enabling legislation, and development of policies that have promoted the implementation of CBNRM in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

CBNRM encompasses a wide range of natural resources and services covering the following sectors: forestry, wildlife, fisheries (inland and marine), marine and coastal zone management, sustainable agriculture, and tourism. Specific activities include community involvement in the various natural resource based enterprises such as sustainable wildlife utilisation, eco-tourism joint ventures, non-timber forest and veldt products, as well as fisheries.

A number of challenges need to be addressed for CBNRM to realise its full potential. Key among these challenges is to bring all countries to the same level of CBNRM implementation, without having to re-invent the wheel in each country. The slow pace of legislative reform and policy implementation, as illustrated by failed devolution and lack of a clearly defined CBNRM policy framework, is another area that requires attention. Issues of proprietorship, rights and access to use of natural resources, and benefit sharing have not been adequately addressed in the past and need to be resolved for more effective implementation of CBNRM.

Identified institutional capacity and conceptual constraints at country and regional level have to be addressed
  • Public sector institutions that in the early 1990s initiated the CBNRM process have lost capacity (human and financial resources)
  • In spite of conducive policy and legal framework in some countries, public sector institutions mandated to promote CBNRM have often pursued conflicting and contradictory practices
  • Although Governments may have initiated the CBNRM programmes, CBNRM initiatives are not wholly “owned” by Government as they have not been properly institutionalised, or the original promoters have left the public sector
  • Unclear, confused, and watered-down concepts and ideas about CBNRM implementation (performance standards not clearly defined)
  • Opportunistic and inappropriate use of CBNRM as attraction for donor money, thus tarnishing credibility of the concept
  • Weak incentives for resource management (e.g. limited or erratic revenue sharing, low potential for revenue generation, market constraints)
  • Insufficient and/or inappropriate training and technical capacity available in countries to support CBO capacity building in resource management
  • Potentially high value forests, savannahs, wildlife, wetlands and freshwater ecosystems remain open access resource without a legal and organisational framework and knowledge/skills to control use and add value
  • Lack of knowledge and information on net returns and ecological benefits and services from various land/resource use options
  • Supranational and multilateral instruments and initiatives in the region not sufficiently addressing NRM and valuation of NRM in national accounting systems
  • CBNRM as an approach to resource management has remained politically marginalized.

Environment and People

Southern Africa contains 50% of the vegetation regions in Africa.

Southern Africa is characterised by high rates of endemism (>40%).

About 70% of Southern Africa is characterised as arid or semi-arid 30% of the region's population live in drought prone and marginal lands.

Protected areas comprise approximately 20% of the region's land area, with a high proportion (>72%) lying across international boundaries.

Protected areas support a very vibrant nature based tourism sector that has become the third largest contributor to regional GDP after mining and agriculture.

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